On 16th February 2013, a woman was killed after a speeding rally car veered off of the track in Inverness and landed on top of her. Thereafter, 31st May 2014 saw three individuals killed as a result of another rally car careering off of the road towards a stage of spectators. Now, some three to four years on, it has been announced that a joint fatal accident inquiry will be held, and is to begin on 17th July 2017 within the Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
The purpose of the joint inquiry is to examine the full circumstances surrounding the deaths. It is also hoped that it will “help to avoid such incidents happening in the future.” However, until this point, a joint fatal accident inquiry concerning two separate incidents occurring in two distinct parts of Scotland had been a foreign concept; further, not a concept competent with domestic legislation. Despite this, it was thought appropriate by the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, to hold both inquiries together. It was felt that the events raised similar questions in relation to spectator safety, and that it would be in the public interest for them to be held together. Accordingly, new laws were enacted, empowering the Crown Office to proceed on this basis.
Since the Scottish Borders incident in 2014, the Jim Clark Rally, near to Coldstream, has not taken place again. This decision was welcomed by the family of Ms Robson who died at the Snowman Rally, despite the Snowman Rally being allowed to continue. The family felt that only a fatal accident inquiry could provide them with the answers surrounding their mother’s death.
Furthermore, Andrew Henderson, partner at Thompsons Solicitors and representing the family, said that they “were also greatly concerned that, unless lessons were learned through the FAI process, more families could be affected by tragic accidents at motorsports rallies. Sadly, they were proved to be correct as the awful events at the Jim Clark Rally in 2014 have shown.”
In the meantime, it is expected that the joint inquiries will proceed as planned on 17th July 2017 and, hopefully, a safer Jim Clark Rally can proceed in 2018. However, one can only hope that these fatal accident enquiries will be renowned for making motor sport safer, and not simply for being the first inquiry of its kind.
For further information on serious and fatal injuries click here.
Blog by Natalie Donald